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Interdog household aggression: 38 cases (2006–2007)

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  • 1 Department of Clinical Sciences, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, North Grafton, MA 01581.
  • | 2 Department of Clinical Sciences, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, North Grafton, MA 01581.
  • | 3 Department of Environmental and Population Health, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, North Grafton, MA 01581.
  • | 4 Department of Clinical Sciences, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, North Grafton, MA 01581.

Abstract

Objective—To analyze factors associated with interdog household aggression and determine treatment outcomes.

Design—Retrospective case series and survey.

Animals—38 pairs of dogs with interdog household aggression. Each pair of dogs was considered 1 case.

Procedures—Records of dogs with interdog household aggression that were examined during initial or follow-up consultations at a veterinary teaching hospital from December 5, 2006, to December 5, 2007, were analyzed for clinical features. Data regarding outcome, owner compliance, and efficacy of recommended treatments obtained by use of a follow-up survey were evaluated.

Results—Most cases (30/38 [79%]) of interdog household aggression involved same-sex pairs; 26 of 38 (68%) cases involved 1 female or a pair of females. Instigators and recipients of aggression were clearly identified in 27 of 38 (71%) cases; most instigators were the younger of the pair (20/27 [74%]) or were newer additions to the household (19/27 [70%]). Fight-eliciting triggers included owner attention, food, excitement, and found items. Some dogs had risk factors for behavior problems such as a history of living in multiple households (21/51 [41%]), adoption after 12 weeks of age (20/51 [39%]), or being acquired from a shelter (17/51 [33%]). Effective treatment recommendations included implementing a so-called nothing-in-life-is-free program, giving 1 dog priority access to resources, and administering psychotropic medication. Frequency and severity of fighting were significantly reduced after consultation. Owners reported a 69% overall improvement following treatment.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Most treatment strategies were considered effective. Consistency and predictability of social interactions are essential in resolving interdog household aggression.

Abstract

Objective—To analyze factors associated with interdog household aggression and determine treatment outcomes.

Design—Retrospective case series and survey.

Animals—38 pairs of dogs with interdog household aggression. Each pair of dogs was considered 1 case.

Procedures—Records of dogs with interdog household aggression that were examined during initial or follow-up consultations at a veterinary teaching hospital from December 5, 2006, to December 5, 2007, were analyzed for clinical features. Data regarding outcome, owner compliance, and efficacy of recommended treatments obtained by use of a follow-up survey were evaluated.

Results—Most cases (30/38 [79%]) of interdog household aggression involved same-sex pairs; 26 of 38 (68%) cases involved 1 female or a pair of females. Instigators and recipients of aggression were clearly identified in 27 of 38 (71%) cases; most instigators were the younger of the pair (20/27 [74%]) or were newer additions to the household (19/27 [70%]). Fight-eliciting triggers included owner attention, food, excitement, and found items. Some dogs had risk factors for behavior problems such as a history of living in multiple households (21/51 [41%]), adoption after 12 weeks of age (20/51 [39%]), or being acquired from a shelter (17/51 [33%]). Effective treatment recommendations included implementing a so-called nothing-in-life-is-free program, giving 1 dog priority access to resources, and administering psychotropic medication. Frequency and severity of fighting were significantly reduced after consultation. Owners reported a 69% overall improvement following treatment.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—Most treatment strategies were considered effective. Consistency and predictability of social interactions are essential in resolving interdog household aggression.

Contributor Notes

Dr. Wrubel's present address is InTown Veterinary Group Inc, Animal Behavior Services, Massachusetts Veterinary Referral Hospital, 20 Cabot Rd, Woburn, MA 01801.

Dr. Moon-Fanelli's present address is Animal Behavior Consultations LLC, Brooklyn Veterinary Hospital, 150 Hartford Rd Rt 6, Brooklyn, CT 06234.

Dr. Maranda's present address is Division of Clinical Research, University of Massachusetts Medical School, 55 Lake Ave N, Worcester, MA 01655.

Address correspondence to Dr. Dodman (nicholas.dodman@tufts.edu).